Poetry Friday: Villanelle

image via Unsplash
Don’t Just Stand There, Open Your Umbrella

Before me in the east,
wrapped in a billowing headdress,
sun peeks.

Without turning, I can hear
grumbles of unrest,
while before me in the east,

with a well-practiced technique,
coyly half-dressed,
sun peeks

at the growling purple beast
storming in from the west.
Before me in the east

she begins to disappear
behind clouds that fume and crest.
Sun peeks

one last time. Then the storm releases
all the rage it had suppressed.
Before me in the east,
sun no longer peeks.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021


The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write a villanelle on the theme of dichotomy. Have you ever noticed that villanelle begins with villain (almost)? This is a doozie of a form and the added challenge of a dichotomy…whew! I started one with the repeating lines

In early May, on a whim, I chose
zinnia seeds to plant in rows.

I managed to make it all the way through a villanelle with those lines, but it fell apart in revision. Luckily, I wrote several villanelles in July! I’m not sure there’s any clear dichotomy in this one (stormy/sunny?), and I definitely bent the rules a bit with my last line, but I had fun with enjambment!

Check out what the rest of the Poetry Sisters came up with:

Laura
Liz
Sara
Tanita
Tricia

Rebecca has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Sloth Reads.

17 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Villanelle”

  1. I love how the sun peeks in and out within the villanelle form…that’s a truly clever way of using the repetition to evoke fresh visuals. I also love how drawn out you’ve made this rather short form feel…how we can feel the storm building before it releases. All in such succinct words. (I do want to read your zinnia seed poem, though! Please keep going!)

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  2. Mary Lee, beautiful. I love what you did here and yes, I see the dichotomy of the battling east and west, stormy and sunny. You captured the take over of the storm with gusto. These lines are a great transition into the full storm:
    “Then the storm releases
    all the rage it had suppressed.”

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  3. I still love the zinnias. I cracked up because those stubborn flowers actually showed up in one of my poems on Sunday, too, but that one was scrapped. I also appreciate that you paired an image of a buildup of stormy power around the constancy of the sun – it’s still there, regardless. This is a good point to recall in a storm…

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  4. Kudos to you for vanquishing a villanelle! I’m so impressed with how you’ve managed all the nuances of this challenge. I played around with the form a bit this month and totally screwed up. lol I considered titling the resulting poem, “This is not a G*!-da#$ed villanelle!” Now I have a mentor poem to help me try again. Thanks! (I’d also love to read your zinnia version as I’m a huge fan of those jaunty blooms!)

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  5. As an early reader of the zinnia poem, which will be a jaunty success any day now, I’m very happy I’m getting to see THIS. I’ve decided that for me villanelles work better with shorter lines, less going on, and you’ve crafted this so compactly, which works with beautiful tension against the giant sky-sized events of the poem. Toss in the attractive personification of the sun and the closest of the close rhyme scheme (east/est), and here’s a winner!

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  6. Love this, Mary Lee! And I’d definitely consider sunny/stormy a dichotomy. Reminds me of our summer storms here in Florida. Thanks for sharing and have a great week!

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  7. We had a scary storm and tornado warning in Maryland this week. Your sun “wrapped in a billowing headdress” and those “grumbles of unrest” capture the summer storm forming.

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  8. I so envy your bravery with the short lines — and you KNOW I love your twist at the end. This is so visceral and lovely, and I’m sooooo glad you’ve joined us!

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  9. Mary Lee, I am also impressed with your concise thoughts in short lines. That takes skill and to think you wrote several this month while I am just a newbie with my first one ever. Very interesting lines: storm releases
    all the rage it had suppressed.
    Wonder why nature is so disturbed lately? We had to stop on the highway (like many others) before Washington, DC on our return from Cape May because the storm was raging with all its force that huge accident occurred.

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  10. This is such a great poem for kids…can I share it with students? It’s got gorgeous imagery and personification. Wonderful, wonderful feeling of the storm coming on.

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  11. I loved the juxtaposition of the sun and the storm, especially the images evoked by the idea of the sun “peeking.” I’m very impressed by all these wonderful villanelles – what a challenging form and how lucky we are to get to read so many examples of it this week!

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  12. I am learning a lot about villanelles by reading so many posted for this week’s Poetry Friday. I love the dichotomy of the sun and storm and how the lines and stanzas blend into each other. Lovely!

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  13. I love this!!! I love the battle between the sun and the storm. And the personification of the sun! And how the storm finally triumphs! Absolutely gorgeous!

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